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Discuss the key skills, attributes and personal development perspectives that contribute to a ‘healthy’ counsellor in a modern Irish setting.
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and approaches the client with respect and in a non-judgemental way. then the client will sense the shared humanity which will lead to a therapeutic relationship. it is possible to postulate an answer that on the one hand is exquisitely simple and on the other is exceeding complex when the role and responsibilities of the counsellor are examined in the context of a multifaceted modern society. if the counsellor has personal integrity and allows himself to be human. Many clients whose daily work is in a knowledge based economy and who have instantaneous availability of information through the internet and media may themselves have pre-conceptions about the art of counselling and may have a level of awareness about the many types of therapy 2 of 11 . Approaching the subject of the skills and attributes of the counsellor from this perspective. If the counsellor has compassion for himself. On the other hand. However. underpinning Eastern Confucianism is the principle of contradiction and paradox which seeks out two opposing propositions both of which may ultimately be accepted as being true. in contemporary Ireland we live in a society which faces new questions and challenges on a daily basis. compassion is created for the client who will begin to see his/her own issues with new insight and clarity. Within this context. In a simple sense. is a good listener. the counsellor typically works with clients who demand a high standard and a professional service often with the added expectation that their counsellor must solve the problem for them after a set number of sessions.Introduction In the western world we tend to think in a linear way with an emphasis on resolving contradictions and moving quickly on.
This applies no less to Ireland as it does to the US and more importantly. teachers and philosophers and wise people of all kinds from all times and places. to be deeply available and thereby to create the living water 3 of 11 . His task is. low self-esteem and problems with eating and sleeping”. gurus. friendly neighbours and supportive co-workers are less likely to experience sadness. disconnection and fragmentation. for many months. Today‟s counsellor follows in the footsteps of shamans. There is a Dublin based urban legend which says that our outgoing Taoiseach had. This essay will attempt to outline the scope of these skills and attributes and identify what is necessary for the counsellor to stay „healthy‟ in his profession. (Putman 2000). The central thesis of Putman (2000) in this book is that we have become increasingly disconnected and that many of our social structures have disintegrated. the counsellor is not immune. to produce one‟s own presence.and the philosophies which underpin them. the counsellor must employ a comprehensive range of skills and personal attributes if he is to offer a professional service. “Countless studies document the link between society and psyche: people who have close friends and confidants. the book “Bowling Alone” at his bedside. Being Fully Present We live in a world of increasing alienation. Faced then with a multiplicity of client issues and an ever expanding body of research on counselling theories and technique. healers. loneliness. the counsellor needs the counterbalance of knowing that his work is that of healing and that this calling is part of a long rich and honourable lineage. As a direct consequence. in the words of Thomas Bien (2006) “To practice deep listening.
K (2006) concludes that “Most research strongly supports the hypothesis that these conditions are 4 of 11 . In the Rogerian person-centered tradition (Rogers. This involves taking time out. Faced with this milieu. It is the relationship that brings the healing and the indispensable instrument is the person of the counsellor himself. Basic empathy involves listening carefully to the client and then communicating understanding of what the client is feeling and the behaviours which underlie these feelings. Empathy One of the main tasks of the counsellor is to understand the client‟s experiences and feelings in a sensitive and accurate way. Tutor. 1957).of a true encounter”. both in his personal and professional life. these core conditions do not vary according to client type and are both necessary and sufficient for all approaches to therapy. often from a heavy schedule. we live in a culture that is largely outside without inside. empathic understanding underlies the 6 core conditions for constructive change to happen. It implies that the counsellor will sense the client‟s feelings as if these feelings were his own while at the same time retaining a sense of his own self and not getting lost in the client‟s inner world. Furthermore. biased towards the extroverted and the doing rather than the being. the counsellor must take a counter cultural stance. placing the emphasis on being in the now. to finding an inner oasis where he can be reflective in thought and mindful in action so that when he does encounters his client he can provide a similar oasis of safety where the client can explore his/her troubles and issues in a safe and grounded environment. Moreover.
This research forms the basis of the mainstream view in counselling and psychotherapy”. He might have hunches about his client but he must know what triggers these hunches. This involves the highest degree of self awareness. While this skill can be learned it is not just something which can be switched on and off at will. in striving to develop the skills of empathic listening. of self discovery and emotional growth are a sine qua non for the counsellor. beliefs and ways of expression. values. Communication between counsellor and client can be influenced by any of these factors and it is important that the counsellor is aware of how these factors influence the dynamic of the relationship. As a consequence. the counsellor can never become complacent about his own level of self awareness and self knowledge. It goes then without saying that one of the main skills which the counsellor employs in all his work is the skill of empathy. where they are coming from and to what extent his own subjectivity is coming into play.necessary for effective counselling. Cultural empathy is about striving for an understanding of the interaction between the client‟s and counsellor‟s cultures. It must become innate to the counsellor. Egan (1986) has pointed out that helpers tend to over identify the helping process with the communication skills. A commitment to the process of becoming. in a sense it must be the air which he breathes. While communication skills are essential. a note of caution is relevant at this point. there is a danger that technique can replace substance and the helping 5 of 11 . Culture is about experiences. whether this is person centered or not. he must be open to learning about the social and cultural contexts that go to constitute life in Ireland today. including the skill of empathy that serves it. However. In addition.
while it might be considered that counsellors are a strange mix of bizarre people. meeting him on a person-to person basis. However. This presents a life long challenge for the counsellor. nevertheless this mystique attaches a certain status to those who might purport to the profession. Limitations and Boundaries. may become bland and hollow. while not doing any harm. Genuineness Rogers and Truax (1967) describe genuineness under the term congruence as follows: “Congruence means that the therapist is what he is during the encounter with the client. The Counsellor – Theories. It means that he is being himself. not denying himself”. It means that he comes into a direct personal encounter with his client. for a real counsellor. relating deeply to others and helping are part of their lifestyle and not roles which they put on or take off at will. In certain circles in Irish society. it is genuineness which brings real power to the helping relationship. There is an ever present danger that the counsellor might take refuge in playing the role of a counsellor. He is without front or façade.relationship. Theories provide counsellors with conceptual frameworks that enable them to think in a systematic way about the nature of human development and the interplay 6 of 11 . Genuine people are at home with themselves and therefore can be comfortable in being themselves in all their interactions. openly being the feelings and attitudes which at the moment are flowing in him. While empathy brings movement.
2005). Furthermore. For example. new perspectives on age old problems are constantly presenting themselves. For example. existential. CBT. In Ireland. the client is striving towards greater understanding and meaning. In any counselling session. It is imperative that the counsellor be aware of the best forms of therapy for each case. A more recent example is the advent of online counselling services. Boyle (2008) is being practical when he reports “Love it or hate it. each of these can be subdivided under numerous theorists and approaches.between counsellor and client. if he works from an existential background. While the main branches may be psychodynamic. As a consequence of this. problems of obesity and eating disorders are the presenting issues for an increasing number of clients. obesity in adults is increasing by at least 1% every year. Each of these have value in themselves but the danger for the counsellor is that he may allow his favourite theory. (National Task Force on Obesity. or the new one he read about the previous evening. R. eclectic and integrative. online counselling has arrived and is an emerging field which will continue to evolve as the use of the internet and other 7 of 11 . humanistic. There is an additional danger that counsellors will put themselves in a superior position by using a level of theoretical language incomprehensible to the average client. then on going study of the leading branches of philosophy will be important. there are a number of implications if the counsellor is to remain “healthy” The counsellor must constantly up-skill so that he is aware of recent developments in counselling in general and specifically in the area in which he generally works. The counsellor assists them in the process by making available the knowledge and understanding of proven counselling theories. to cloud the accuracy of his assessment of what can best help the client at any given time.
each counsellor must choose a theory and style with which he is comfortable and competent. Supervision The aim of supervision is to promote best practice in the client-counsellor relationship. The “healthy” counsellor will know that an appropriate referral is strength and not a weakness. personal therapy or line management but may include elements of these. The healthy counsellor welcomes the opportunity for Supervision as he has nothing to fear and everything to gain by sharing his professional concerns and practical issues with 8 of 11 . (NCII. It is not training. Code of Practice. However. Experienced counsellors can draw on a range of theoretical perspectives and techniques and develop a personal eclectic style. the counsellor‟s personal emotional energy is revitalised. It is here the issue of boundaries can be explored and checked by working in a collaborative way with the supervisor.online technologies evolve”. it is important for all counsellors. and he is helped to selfevaluate his professional work. collaborative and is a sine qua non for the healthy counsellor. whether experienced or not. This choice must serve to enhance the area of work in which he generally operates. 2007) Within this caring space. to recognise their personal limitations and boundaries. It is structured. This is a key skill which flows from personal attribute of positive humility which acknowledges that “I do not know” or “I am out of my depth here”. The healthy counsellor will be open to evaluating such developments and being client focused will ask “Can this development be of benefit to my clients?” Because the range of theories is so broad.
time for self reflection and creative expression. regular contact with nature. He sees the need of drawing up and being committed to a personal programme of preventive measures such as time out. Relevant insurance cover is arranged and the terms of an appropriate Counselling Code of Ethics are strictly adhered to. In addition to a discussion on the counselling alliance. The counsellor is not immune to life. 9 of 11 . the skill of having an awareness of the legal issues involved in the profession of counselling is an important consideration. Supervision really comes into its own as an identifier of burnout. must face the marketplace like everyone else. Legal and Ethical Awareness One hallmark of Irish society is an increasing level of litigation. It manifests itself when the counsellor prudently organises his work in formal and structured way. The traditional Irish model of “Anam Chara” (O‟Donogue. J 1997) potentially provides another perspective on the necessity for someone to accompany the counsellor on the journey. and encounters the stresses and strains of living in an Ireland where the tempo of life seems to increase by the day. hobbies. Commitment to Supervision is a key element of this plan for staying physically and psychologically healthy.an experienced colleague. The healthy counsellor will recognise that burnout is perhaps the greatest occupational hazards for him as he sees the difficulty of walking the line between an appropriate level of affective involvement with the client and sufficient emotional detachment. Although not so obvious at first. clients are informed of the nature of the counselling contract.
" Surely this is the healthy counselor in action. laughter soft. More importantly. He will put in place supportive structures for his professional work and have a sense of his place in the important lineage of helpers that have come down the millennia and have arrived in the marketplace of modern Ireland. A sensitive counsellor will be skilled in recognising this and address the issue immediately. facing the challenges of a modern society and taking time to have fun and a hearty laugh. tinged through with seriousness. The congruence. respect and empathy which are integral to the “healthy” counsellor will silently speak volumes to the fearful client and assure him that he is in safe hands. even the most trustworthy of helpers. 10 of 11 . he must be an integrated person who is aware that he must constantly grow and develop in knowledge. the counselor must employ a range of core skills and micro techniques which will facilitate the therapeutic relationship. the hilarious declaration made by man that life is worth living. The last word is with Sean O‟Casey when he says "Laughter is wine for the soul. Conclusion In order to remain healthy and give the best possible service to his client. Being a healthy counselor means living life to the full. or loud and deep. It must also be recognised that some clients fund it difficult to trust anybody. The NCII Code (2007) is quite specific about this and will be of assistance to the counsellor where complex issues about potential breaches of confidentiality might arise.Of special relevance here is the counsellor‟s practice around confidentiality. self awareness and personal integrity.
cover the issue of Confidentiality.101 University of Wisconsin Press. Putnam.(2008) An Introduction to Online Counselling.7 Somerville MA. 332 New York. Boyle. 15 Monteray. Journal of Consulting Psychology 21. (1997) Anam Chara. 95 -103 Rogers C. Wisdom Publications. T. and Traux. p. G (1986) The Skilled Helper p. Rogers. Tutor. Code of Ethics (2007). IACP. Horton (2006). Brooks/Cole Publishers. London. Sage Publications. Bantam Press. K (2006) “Person Centered Counselling and Psychotherapy” The Sage Handbook of Counselling and Psychotherapy Ed. Spring 2008. O‟Donoghue. p. CA. R . (2006) Mindful Therapy p. Section B. Simon & Schuster. Eisteach Magazine. 11 of 11 . J. C (1967) “The Therapeutic Conditions Antecedent to Change: A Theoretical View” C. C (1957) “The necessary and sufficient conditions of therapeutic personality change”.) the Therapeutic Relationship and its Impact. Colin Feltham and I.3 Sections B4 and B5.References Bien.20 Egan. 15 National Counselling Institute of Ireland. Rogers (Ed. London. National Task Force on Obesity (2005) p. R (2000) Bowling Alone p.